By DAVID SKOLNICK
David E. Freel, a Niles native who’s been executive director of the Ohio Ethics Commission the past 17 years, is retiring at the end of the year.
During his tenure, the commission has assisted investigations of several Mahoning Valley political ethics cases.
That includes the ongoing Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal corruption case involving Mahoning County Commissioner John McNally IV, county Auditor Michael Sciortino, former county Treasurer John Reardon and others.
“The Valley has good ethical roots but has had poor public role models,” said Freel, a 1970 Niles McKinley High School graduate.
Despite the area’s history of political corruption, Freel said he has “high regard for the work ethic of the Valley.”
Efforts by the commission also led to the convictions of ex-Mahoning County Sheriff Phil Chance, ex-county Commissioner Frank Lordi, former Attorney General Marc Dann, three of Dann’s top administrators, Dann’s estranged wife as well as Edward Flask, a former director at the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District.
Citizens are “fed up with unethical public officials and leadership, and tired of political favoritism, and want it to stop.” Freel said. “The vast majority of people in public service are trying to do their jobs in tough circumstances. It’s a small percentage the public sees that distorts” that reality.
Freel, 59, has spent 27 years at the commission, including the past 17 as its executive director. The commission will meet Nov. 17 to discuss the selection process to replace Freel.
During Freel’s tenure, the commission has issued ethics advice and guidance and educated tens of thousands of public officials and employees on the state’s ethics law as well as conducted hundreds of investigations of ethics-law violations at the state and local levels.
Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains said Freel will be missed.
“He’s been a big help” to the Mahoning Valley, Gains said of Freel. “One thing about David Freel is you get an honest judgment from him. We’re going to lose his institutional experience.”
and his historical perspective.”